August 4, 2010

The Last Days of a Rake by Donna Lea Simpson

The Last Days of a Rake

Donna Lea Simpson

Grade: B

Historical Fiction

I've long been a fan of Donna Simpson. Her traditional Regency, Lord St. Claire's Angel, is among my all-time favorite trads, and is actually responsible (along with Anne Gracie's Tallie's Knight) for turning me into a rabid trad reader nearly a decade ago. I also enjoyed Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark and was frustrated when it did not result in a series as expected.

Earlier this summer I finally activated my long-dormant membership, and among the first stories I asked to read were Simpson's Love and Scandal, and its "companion piece," The Last Days of a Rake, a free download available at Carina Press, the digital-only imprint from Harlequin. Most people would have read the full-length book first, but I like to whet my appetite when possible with shorter stories, and TLDOAR indeed hit the spot. This death-bed confession of a cad and roué should be required reading for those of us who romanticize rakes. If you've adored more than a few reformed rake romances in the past - and who hasn't? - I think you'll be captivated by this first-person narrative, in which the dying Edgar Lankin traces his rise as a man devoted to slaking his desires and eventually falling into loneliness and self-loathing.

He purposely plots as part of his debauchery the ruination each Season of a beautiful young woman simply because he can. This raises the stakes as the reader realizes she's reading about a thoroughly selfish and unlikable character, and while Lankin remains a small man throughout, his efforts at redemption after he hits rock bottom (think the scene in Inception of the opium-like den) are filled with poignance because of their futility. And because he knows they're futile.

Simpson's novella is serious, thoughtful, and well-written. It packs a punch in a limited word count and I look forward to reading the full-length book it accompanies.

I reviewed this book after receiving a digital copy from the publisher.


1 comment:

Donna Lea Simpson said...

Wow, Laurie, thank you so much! I am blown away by your comments on Last Days.

When Carina approached me to do Last Days I was excited, but so nervous I was almost ill. It was an opportunity, but also a huge chance. If it busted, folks might never give Love & Scandal a chance.

I had only one month to write it... one month to create a book Collette had supposedly labored on for years!! When I finished I was cautiously optimistic. It was all right that the work is seriously flawed, because that is part of what Collette comes to realize in Love & Scandal; she learns the books faults, sometimes from very authoritative critics, indeed.

But thank you for what you've said. I'll quote you, if you don't mind!!